Moving back through the history of pies…we come to the “Test Kitchen Classic” – a pumpkin pie recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s more scientific and thought-out than granny’s pie recipe, but less “Pie Version 2.0” than the concoctions in my Baked cookbook. I should probably note as well that the crust for this recipe (and for the two which will follow shortly) was also from Cook’s Illustrated. Pie is a very curious food: it appears simple, and is often made with few ingredients, yet tiny tweaks to crust and filling can take a simply “good” pie to a whole new Blue Ribbon level.
Vodka Crust (Makes top and bottom crusts for a 9″ pie)
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Spicy Pumpkin Pie Filling:
2 cups (16 ounces) plain pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
Brandied Whipped Cream:
1 1/3 cups heavy cream, cold
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
1. Place a rolled-out crust in a pie pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes (or freeze for 5 minutes) to firm dough shell. Using a table fork, prick bottom and sides — including where they meet — at 1/2-inch intervals. Flatten a 12-inch square of aluminum foil inside shell, pressing it flush against corners, sides, and over rim. Prick foil bottom in about a dozen places with a fork. Chill shell for at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour or more), to allow dough to relax.
2. Adjust an oven rack to lowest position, and heat oven to 400 degrees. (Start preparing filling when you put shell into oven.) Bake 15 minutes, pressing down on foil with mitt-protected hands to flatten any puffs. Remove foil and bake shell for 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until interior just begins to color.
3. For filling, blend the first 7 ingredients in a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer over medium-high heat. Cook pumpkin, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes. As soon as pie shell comes out of oven, whisk heavy cream and milk into pumpkin and bring to a bare simmer. Process eggs in food processor until whites and yolks are mixed, about 5 seconds. With motor running, slowly pour about half of hot pumpkin mixture through feed tube. Stop machine and scrape in remaining pumpkin. Process 30 seconds longer.
4. Immediately pour warm filling into hot pie shell. (Ladle any excess filling into pie after it has baked for 5 minutes or so — by this time filling will have settled.) Bake until filling is puffed, dry-looking, and lightly cracked around edges, and center wiggles like gelatin when pie is gently shaken, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.
For Brandied Whipped Cream (optional):
Beat cream at medium speed to soft peaks; gradually add confectioners’ sugar then brandy. Beat to stiff peaks. Accompany each wedge of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.